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Methamphetamine, cocaine abusers have different patterns of use

Studies supported by NIDA show that methamphetamine abusers typically use the drug 20 days per month, beginning early in the morning and using it at regular intervals throughout the day. In contrast, cocaine abusers are more likely to exhibit a binge pattern. They use the drug fewer days per month, typically in the evening rather than in the daytime, and use it continuously over several hours. Both drugs cause deficits in measures of reasoning and concentration, but methamphetamine abusers perform more poorly than cocaine abusers on tests measuring perceptual speed and the ability to manipulate information, according to Dr. Sara Simon of the University of California, Los Angeles.

The typical methamphetamine abuser reported using the drug when he or she first got up in the morning and then using it approximately every two to four hours during the waking day. Most of the descriptions of use more closely resembled taking a medication than using a drug for pleasure. Cocaine abusers, however, reported patterns of use that began in the evening and continued until all the cocaine had been used.

Both drugs are associated with similar cognitive deficits, although some types of impairment differ. The most striking difference is that methamphetamine abusers had more trouble than cocaine abusers with tasks requiring attention, organizing information, and switching points of view.

WHAT IT MEANS: These studies add important details to our understanding of the real-world characteristics of methamphetamine and cocaine use. This understanding can be incorporated into the development of treatment strategies that help abusers avoid or cope with situations that put them at risk for relapse and give them behavioral tools they can learn, understand, and apply in those situations.

Dr. Simon and her colleagues described their findings in a special methamphetamine issue of Journal of Addictive Diseases (Vol. 21, Number 1, 2002).


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Contact: Blair Gately
bgately@nida.nih.gov
301 443 6245
NIH/National Institute on Drug Abuse
31-Jul-2002


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